PAPERBOY

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When you really stop to think about it, it’s pretty bizarre to glorify a lame-ass pre-teen job by making it into a video game, (what was next—Lawn Cutter? Dog-Washer? The Daring Adventures of a Burpee Seeds Salesman?) I mean, aren’t video games supposed to take the player away from the hum-drum realities of their daily life? In any case, this game used real handlebars as a controller and that was pretty unique. But it hardly seemed the kind of thing that was going to get the blood racing and eyes twitching in adrenalized bursts of excitement. The houses and cars and pets of the virtual world in Paperboy were like a modern-day Norman Rockwell version of Anytown, USA, but there were some real dangers lurking out there—radio-controlled toy tanks, break dancers, street brawlers, and a gang of mohawked punks on unicycles, although I may be remembering that last one wrong.

At least the parents of Paperboy fanatics could rest easy knowing their children were living out their “fantasies” by benignly chucking around rolled-up newspapers instead of mowing down people with fully automatic weaponry or blowing up planets. The nicest touch of all was the epilogue to this game when the player would get immortalized in the very publication he had been hired to distribute. If you were a good paperboy, you got your picture on the front page holding a trophy. If you were a reckless paperboy who had been mowed down by one too many Stutz Bearcats and thus died before your knapsack had been properly emptied, the banner headline would read “Paperboy Call it Quits.” If you were an incompetent buffoon of a paperboy who had managed to stay alive but lost all his subscribers due to bad aim, the headline read “You’re Fired”–always accompanied by a few choice quotes from querulous ex-customers: “Worst Ever” “Scum on Wheels” “Total Shit.” Fun stuff!

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